Holy Church of the UK 8" 2-way BBC Monitor Thread...Harbeth, Spendor, Stirling, Rogers etc

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by ArdenHiFi, Feb 20, 2016.

  1. bhazen

    bhazen Beatles Diehard

    Newcastle, WA

    Are those from the pre-Alan Shaw era? I've never seen Harbeths with polypropylene(?) woofers before ...
  2. ArdenHiFi

    ArdenHiFi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Yeah, those were pre-Alan Shaw. I wouldn't expect much from them because they have two serious problems: 1) failing glue on the surrounds. It shows up as yellowing when it's a problem and you can see that on this pair. 2) those woofers have the tendency to warp over time...there's a term for it I can't recall right now, but basically they want to return to their original form. Thus said, the speakers are a crap shoot. They could be amazing or they could be nothing like they were originally intended to sound. But for $300, it may be worth the risk. Note the crossover frequency, which I suspect may be an error. Can't imagine they wouldn't have used the standard 3k, but anything is possible.

    HARBETH Monitor HL »
  3. Ghostworld

    Ghostworld Forum Resident

    Polypropylene woofers or metal tweeters always send me running from speakers. I've never met a metal tweeter I've liked.
  4. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    Even a Be metal tweeter?
  5. Dozey

    Dozey Member

    Tangent TM1's did it for me back in the day.
  6. bhazen

    bhazen Beatles Diehard

    Newcastle, WA
    One thing your observations points up, is that the standard of just the physical construction of loudspeakers has improved so much over the last few decades. It would be interesting to see, in thirty or forty years, how todays' speakers hold up when compared to their future equivalents.
  7. ArdenHiFi

    ArdenHiFi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I agree, except if you're referring to the tweeter in the HL Monitor, it's not metal. That's an Audax HD12x9d25 soft dome.
  8. ArdenHiFi

    ArdenHiFi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I think that in some cases that's true and in others it's not. You've got beautiful Altec and JBL woofers floating around that are solid as as rock, built to last, and then there was some '80s and '90s crap that's already falling apart. And then there's the whole foam surround disaster.
  9. ArdenHiFi

    ArdenHiFi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I was mistaken. It's not the poly cone that has material memory, it's the surround. Alan Shaw on the HL Monitor:

    "The woofers and tweeters were made to the prevailing normal commercial specification of thirty years ago, long before cyanoacrylates (super glues) were introduced to the speaker industry. That means that the weakest parts of these old speakers are the glue joints which are, by now, held together by not much more than a wing and a prayer. You'll see evidence of that as dark staining around the rubber surround (in the Mk 2 and 3) where the contact adhesive has attacked the cone. The Mk1 has a different problem: the clear PVC surround has a tendency to return to the flat state (it has material memory) and that means the half-roll may have flattened out. The normal anticipated service life of such a speaker at the time would have been up to ten years at best, so they are now approaching three times their design life. Common sense says that they are extremely fragile. If you buy a car from an elderly person who has just pottered around the village you must expect the clutch to fail. It's the same problem with speakers: the shock of the duty cycle the new owner gives them strains fragile parts."
  10. DangerousKitchen

    DangerousKitchen Up in TO, keepin jive alive

    Then I have to assume you have never heard a Harbeth tweeter. I don't think anybody after hearing them has ever accused them of sounding bright, shrill, harsh, etc.
    MarkNC, basie-fan and bhazen like this.
  11. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    That was their raison d'etre when Dudley Harwood started the company. He had developed the polypropylene cone while at the BBC, then struck out on his own to produce them.
    bhazen likes this.
  12. ArdenHiFi

    ArdenHiFi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    I'll accuse them of that. They're zingy. I don't like them. And there's no such thing as a Harbeth tweeter. Shaw uses cheap metal tweeters by SEAS. The only Harbeth speakers that contain quality tweeters are the M30 and M40.
  13. Scott in DC

    Scott in DC Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    I have admired the speakers made by Harbeth and Stirling and hope to own a pair some day. My main speakers are a pair of Sonus Faber Electas which use silk dome Dynaudio Esotar tweeters. In a second system I have a pair of Rogers LS4a2 which are a 2 way speaker with 8" mid/woofer.

  14. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident

    Right. You don't have to like them. That's why there are dozens and dozens of speaker makers.

    What complete nonsense. Every part that SEAS or any other third-party specialist makes to spec for Harbeth (and some other customers) is customized to meet that spec and the requirements of the crossover to which it's going to be connected and the cabinet in which it's going to be mounted. Harbeth selects matched pairs from its SEAS inventory, and voices each pair to ensure consistency from pair to pair. Dismissing, with your casually uninformed rip, the work that Harbeth's people put into their design work, their relationships with key suppliers and the effort that line staff put into fabrication, assemby and finishing is just pointlessly insulting and misinformed. Suggesting that a Harbeth P3ESR or Compact 7 or SHL5 Plus use nothing more than off-the-shelf, cheap tweeters may be your opinion but it's not a fact.

    From Alan Shaw a few years ago in response to questions about the custom SEAS tweeters made for Harbeth: "I don't take any notice of what others claim about the capabilities of drive units, including tweeters. It's easy to make a spectacular sounding tweeter - far more difficult to make one that doesn't sound like a tweeter at all. Furthermore, the concept of 'extension' has little meaning to me. From this post you will be able to read how extremely weak the ear's ability to hear high frequencies is. Almost everything I have read about marvellous new tweeters and their incredible high frequency capabilities is just plain misguided.

    Harbeth is not SEAS' sales promotion department and I'm not sure I can be much more helpful as I am not a tweeter designer - and never will be: it's a highly specialist business.

    The proof, as usual, is in the final product, comparative testing, and the work benches & test benches of the technical reviewers, all of whom disagree with your opinion that Harbeth speakers contain cheap metal tweeters. Everything I hear reproduced by Harbeth speakers sounds superb to me.
    basie-fan and MarkNC like this.
  15. ArdenHiFi

    ArdenHiFi Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    My opinion differs from yours and the facts differ from your opinions as follows:

    1 There is no difference between off-the-shelf SEAS tweeters and the units Harbeth uses other than small cosmetic changes. Harbeth uses a little tool known as creative marketing to make you think you're getting something special. Here's the tweeter for the Monitor 30 and 40, for example, but in the Harbeth version there is a screen over the dome. Alan Shaw has a $6000 speaker to sell, so he has to make sure you believe that the Harbeth tweeter is superior or in some way different or unique, when in fact it is not. And tweeters are not made to work in crossovers, crossovers are built around the choice of drive units...FYI.

    Norwegian SEAS ( SEAS ) Gold Series E0006-06 T25CF001 woven film treble - Taobao Depot, Taobao Agent »

    2 I'm not actually that great of a fan of Alan Shaw's designs. I think he just accidentally got the original Monitor 30 right and of course, the Radial midrange unit may as well have been created by Zeus. The lesser, metal-domed Harbeths I've heard have been less impressive, though. Thus said, the Monitor 30 would appear on my list of the most incredible sounding speakers I have ever heard. If you spend a little bit of time reading Alan Shaw's stuff over at the Harbeth forum, you see that he loves specifications. He tends to view a good tweeter as a good tweeter. He claims that the silk domes in the M30 and M40 don't sound all that different from the metal ones he uses in the speakers, which is ridiculous. He uses an, at best, mediocre sounding amplifier, the Quad 405, as his reference because, as he more or less explains, it's a good amplifier with good specifications that measures well. In other words, if he can still hear at his age, he's not a discerning listener. He's a marketing genius who bought a reputable company and came up with a good formula and stumbled upon a masterpiece. That's my take on what's going on, but I'm just thinking out loud. Or it could be that he knows that people who buy cheaper speakers tend to like a little extra sizzle with their bacon. He could easily use the SEAS T25CF001 in all their designs. I'm not sure why he doesn't, but I have my suspicions.

    Ask Alan Shaw or SEAS to present you with specific evidence including graphs and measurements and/or an explanation of how the Harbeth tweeters are different than off-the-shelf SEAS units and prove me wrong, by all means.
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
    ls35a likes this.
  16. action pact

    action pact ^^ Sandy Warner, "The Exotica Girl"

    KEF LS50's are often described as 'inspired by the LS3/5A,' but I don't see much in common with what I understand to be the characteristics of BBC monitors. Am I wrong?
    ArdenHiFi likes this.
  17. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    It's about the same size box, has about the same size woofer, and uses massive amounts of baffle step compensation in the crossover, those are the similarities.
    dmckean and action pact like this.
  18. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    Definitely like the 8" (2) way BBC style box as described in this thread. The best I have heard are the Harbeth SHL5+. The cabinet volume and porting really maximizes the sound, especially the bass of the 8" driver IMHO.
    I truly wish I had more exposure to some of the brands other than Harbeth- Stirling, Rogers, etc. and could spend some time in the UK to listen to the current models and their vintage predecessors.
    Does ProAc fit into this mix at all? What about any others?
    Also, there are some decent LS/5a clones out there (e.g. salk continuum) but I don't see any 8" clones. Seems like an untapped market.
    ls35a likes this.
  19. murphythecat

    murphythecat Forum Resident

    your right that the SEAS tweeter are basically the same that can be bought for DIY.

    You dont like Alan shaw designs but you think M30 is one of the best speaker youve ever heard?

    I have the continuum. the P3esr is at another level.
    ls35a likes this.
  20. DangerousKitchen

    DangerousKitchen Up in TO, keepin jive alive

    So you don't like the P3ESR, C7ES3, Super HL5, etc? Your comments have so very little merit without any context. What Harbeth speakers have you heard, auditioned or owned besides the older M30? Are you referring to current models or ones from the past, that you know, you may have heard once upon a time somewhere and didn't like. Please provide context for your unusually negative opinion, otherwise, you come off like a reactionary "link warrior", speaking unfounded generalizations because a component looks "similar" to one in a parts catalog.(that's quite a reach you made in the link.) And SEAS make wonderful tweeters and I'll bet anyone interested in this thread already knows that. It's no secret.

    So you don't like them. That's fine. There are a lot of speakers to like but it seems like you just don't like the way the company does business because the tweeter used is similar to one in your link. I don't buy or judge audio that way. I don't buy a tweeter from a link, rather, I buy a well designed enclosure that has been thoughtfully assembled tuned and constructed and that is infinitely listenable.
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  21. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    Yes, and let us not forget many Klipsch Heritage owners with 35 year old drivers with no foam issues. That is a major attraction.
  22. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    agreed, still clones can be a good value. i would have taken a try at a reasonably priced 8" clone.
  23. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    The cost of the tweeter is not relevant to the sound of the final product. SEAS are known for low distortion, high value tweeters and other drivers, they do not have to be expensive so sound good.
    A high end Magico system uses a $25.00 Vifa tweeter.
    BTW I happen to really like the tweeter in the C7ES. It lightly crosses the line above detail vs. smoothness but not by much and it has spell binding moments of clarity and realism.
    basie-fan, bhazen and Art K like this.
  24. gryphongryph

    gryphongryph Well-Known Member

    Faroe Islands
    Interesting discussion,
    How do you guys rate the new Graham LS 5/9 in comparison to the Harbeth 30-30.1 or Spendor ?
    bhazen likes this.
  25. Helom

    Helom Forum Resident

    I recently bought a pair of Spendor SP2/3R2. I tried the Compact 7, but they just didn't do it for me. The Spendors have a warmer midrange with just as much detail. There's a bit of "presence" to them that I just didn't hear in the Harbeths. The Spendors are less open sounding than the Compact 7, but I find they have more bass slam, despite the somewhat misleading specs.

    The SP100s are probably the best speaker I've heard.

    The only real qualms I have with the newer Spendors are the grills and the aesthetics of the transparent midbass woofer. The woofer looks a bit like milk jug plastic and the grill fabric is attached to a piece of MDF with contoured cut outs. The grills definitely impede muffle the sound. Otherwise, the Spendors are my new favorite under $5k

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